Unsung Hero: Megan Zarcone, Volunteer Female Firefighter, Monsey Fire Department

BY BARRY WARNER

A growing number of women are climbing tall aerial ladders and rescuing Rockland County residents from smoky rooms as members of volunteer fire companies. People who call 911 are not concerned about the gender of the firefighter who responds and rescues those plagued by a fire emergency.

“Megan Zarcone joined in 2010 and has been one of our top five or top 10 responders, every single one of those years,” Monsey Fire Department Past Chief Adam ‘Big Lou’ Gordon told the Rockland County Times. “She has also headed up our ‘Fire Prevention Education Committee’ for the last four years and arranges all our public education with public and private schools, summer camps, etc. She is quite a ‘pistol’ and her personality makes her seem way larger in life than her petite stature might make it seem without knowing her. She does this while juggling higher education and a full-time job in her pursuit to become an addiction counselor, still helping others.”

“I joined at 18, became a probationary firefighter and have served as a firefighter for the past eight years,” Zarcone said. “During my training, I have been taught about thermal imaging, tower operation, the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), the hose lines, proper communication, personal escape systems, search techniques and venting a roof. I am a member of the Firefighter Assist and Search Team (FAST), which is dedicated solely to the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress who go down in a structure fire. The purpose of the Firefighter Drag Rescue Device is to aid with the rescue of an incapacitated firefighter by dragging him/her along a horizontal plane. I have to be in good physical shape in order to be ready to serve, therefore, I go to the gym 2-3 times a week.”

“When the alarm goes off, the Tanker Truck leaves the Brewer Fire Engine Company No. 1 first. The primary purpose of the engine is to transport firefighters to the incident scene, provide a supply of 500 gallons of water to fight the fire and carry tools, equipment and hoses needed by the firefighters,” Zarcone continued. “The ladder tower is an aerial device designed for safe climbing and is attached to a bucket. Firefighters operating in the bucket have the advantage of a clear line of sight to the burning structure. The Rescue Truck has equipment to deal with an extrication of a person in a damaged vehicle. The ‘Jaws of Life’ refers to several types of hydraulic tools such as spreaders, cutters and rams to pry open vehicles where a person is trapped. Monsey has single-family structures that are turned into multi-family units where there are walls that shouldn’t be, beds that shouldn’t be, no windows and boiler rooms filled with storage, so we don’t know what we are getting into when fighting a house fire. What looks like a normal structure from the outside is not normal inside. Things can be replaced, but a human being cannot be replaced.”

With the Personal Escape System (PES) each firefighter carries his own hook, rope and descender pre-rigged on their person for any situation where they may have to bail out a window or off a roof. Their bunker pants have built-in harnesses, so the PES is clipped in and ready to deploy. The SCBA is a respiratory protective device to prevent the user from inhaling the oxygen deficient air, contaminated particulate, toxic gas and vapors or potentially harmful gases at the fire site.

In Monsey, multiple-family dwellings consist of apartment buildings, garden apartment buildings and townhouses. These structures can be anywhere from a single story to four stories tall. Life safety is the highest priority at all structure fires. The potential for loss of life and rescue of multiple civilians is prominent in multi-family homes. There is a high chance of fire extension that makes the objective of interior fire containment and primary search a high tactical priority. The rescue problem should be addressed by a thorough interior search for life that focuses on the bedrooms and means of egress. Once those areas have been checked, searching above the fire and adjacent apartments have to be performed.

“I volunteer to aid people who need help. It is not about us, it’s about them,” Zarcone concluded. “Being a firefighter is belonging to a second family. This is my second home and I enjoy the camaraderie. It is a good feeling when a fire is put out and no one gets hurt, and firefighters or members of the community and everyone goes home safe. You can replace things but you cannot replace a human being. My father was a firefighter in the Tallman Fire Department and is now a Monsey Fire Department firefighter. When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time at the Tallman firehouse helping to clean up and going to parades. Now my father and I are fighting fires together!”

For additional information about volunteering, visit www.monseyfd.org or call 845-356-2611.